Why Pretend to Be Something That You’re Not?
My daughter loves wearing different costumes (and not just for Halloween). She loves pretending to be a doctor, firefighter, princess, fairy, butterfly and even a mommy. This is why I think adults like Halloween too – you can pretend to be something you’re not (at least for one day) and get away with it! It is fun to step outside of your own skin and live in a fantasy world. However, I think that this becomes problematic when we try to fantasize our professional world. What I mean is that nonprofit organizations can sometimes embellish the truth in order to garner favor (more shares on Twitter), additional funding or supporters of the organization. However, this can sometimes lead an organization down the wrong path. Your organization’s case statement (essentially, your statement of need and projected impact) should be routed in the truth. Why? Let’s outline some reasons.
- Needs are articulated. Have you determined why you need to seek funding for your organization/programs? Do you have dollars associated with these needs? Can you also clarify how you will measure the impact of funding against meeting these needs?
- Do not overpromise. A strong case statement will speak to your organization’s current capacity and capabilities, as well as providing information about future planning to show you are forward thinking in your strategic planning efforts. If you start to focus on too many high-level initiatives that are contingent on resources, funding, space, etc. these new initiatives may not happen and can fuel confusion about whether people can trust that you can meet expectations.
- Careful plan based on thorough assessment. Sometimes an organization’s needs are based on needs that have been articulated since inception. Has an updated needs assessment taken place and a fundraising and/or strategic plan been developed that coincides with this assessment?
- Outlines your capacity. There is a difference between your current state and future state. As described in #2, it is important to understand your limitations as an organization. Organizational capacity speaks to your ability to have strong internal controls, understanding your target audience and that you have programs that meet the needs of your constituency.
- Integrity matters. Most importantly, being true to your organization’s capacity shows that you are honest and forthright. This way, being boastful about your current strengths is more significant than embellishing the truth.
Have you updated your case statement recently (or at least your boilerplate grants and communications language)? Does this speak to your truth and where you are as an organization currently? Remember that Halloween lasts only one day each year – you have to be honest to yourselves, your constituents and funders all 365 days. Honesty and a firm understanding of your organization’s capacity are important qualities!